Satan’s Part in God’s Perfect Plan
Undertaking a study of God’s plan for Satan reminds me of those occasional times I put on a motorcycle helmet and set out for a ride. I do so with mixed feelings; I look forward to the ride, but I remind myself of the dangers involved. This study is important, but we dare not be ignorant of Satan’s strategies, “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Our approach must be one of soberness, for the issues at hand are life and death, heaven and hell. We should avoid levity and flippancy. Satan is a serpent, and as such, he is not only deadly but often is so well camouflaged we do not see him. Some Christians see too much of Satan, as though he were behind every biblical bush. Others see too little of him. Some therefore give him too much credit and others too little.
The Bible displays a sense of proportion concerning Satan which we should seek to gain and then maintain. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Satan, and no more. Given Satan’s key role in the plan of God, his great power, and his cunning ways, we might expect to find more about Satan in the Bible than we do. God neither wishes to flatter Satan with too much publicity nor desires that we become preoccupied with him. Satan fell because of his insatiable desire for prominence, desiring the glory which belongs only to God. Satan should receive only the attention he deserves. God’s Word supplies the facts and perspective we need.
In this series, we are engaged in the study of God’s eternal plan for creation, having previously considered God as the perfect Planner and then His plan as the perfect plan. This lesson will consider Satan, who is literally hell-bent on perverting or preventing God’s plan. Our study will begin with a survey of the names and the nature of Satan. It then will move to the major focus of this lesson: Satan’s part in the plan of God, as seen through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, from before creation to the final chapter of history. We will then draw some conclusions with their implications.
Beginning at the Beginning
One might expect we would start at the beginning of the Old Testament, where in the first three chapters of Genesis Satan tempts Adam and Eve, and the fall of man occurs. But the study of the temptation and the fall of man must wait until our next lesson. We must first go back in time--but forward in Scripture--to the biblical account of Satan’s creation and fall. Satan and the angels existed before the creation of the world. Indeed, the angels witnessed creation and rejoiced:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).
Job was not present at creation. No man was, but the angels were. In Genesis 3, Satan is present in the garden, but he is already fallen. Two Old Testament passages, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, deserve solemn reading as they graphically portray Satan’s fall:
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).
“Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared. “You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you. By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. and I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you (Ezekiel 28:12-17).
In this survey of Satan in the plan of God, we can only touch briefly on texts which hold much more than we can consider here. But we must note these general observations about the Isaiah and Ezekiel texts above:
(1) Both texts begin as a taunt against a king of a nation which opposes both God and Israel. Isaiah 14 is a taunt against the king of Babylon (14:4); Ezekiel 28 is against the ruler or prince of Tyre (28:2).
(2) The taunt in both texts takes us beyond and behind the earthly king Satan, who stands behind them and whose character and work they exemplify. Some would dispute the claim that Satan is addressed in these two texts, but the descriptions in both go beyond that of a man and fit no one other than Satan. Who but Satan:
- has fallen from heaven (Isaiah 14:12)?
- can be called the “star of the morning” and “son of the dawn” (Isaiah 14:12)?
- had the “seal of perfection” and was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty,” in “Eden, the garden of God” (Ezekiel 28:12-13)?
- was “blameless” when created (Ezekiel 28:15)?
- was “the anointed cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14)?
(3) These texts indicate what we should already know--that Satan’s character and conduct are manifested in those over whom he has control. The Christian is to manifest the character and conduct of our Lord. The non-Christian likewise manifests the character and conduct of Satan (see John 8:39-44). The taunt therefore addresses the earthly king who opposes God and His people, and the “prince” who stands behind, prompting men to carry out his will.
A pair of bifocal glasses offers an analogy of these texts. Some bifocals have a very clear, distinct line between one lens and the other. Newer lenses often have no distinct line; one lens blends into the other. So it is with these texts in Isaiah and Ezekiel. One “lens” is the earthly king, who opposes God and His chosen people. The other is Satan, the ultimate enemy, the ultimate evil, standing behind, orchestrating opposition through his servants. The shift from one “lens” to the other is not a clear line but a blur. Looking through the center of the lens lets us see clearly who is intended. Isaiah 14:12-15 are addressed to Satan just as Ezekiel 28:12-15 are. The immediately surrounding verses are blurry, referring most likely to both men and Satan.33 We now can understand these two texts as referring to Satan’s creation, his fall, and his character.
From Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel, we gain vitally important information about Satan which is most helpful in understanding His activities throughout history. He is a created being, who was without sin in the beginning (Ezekiel 28:15). He is an angel, a cherub (Ezekiel 28:16). He was created wise, beautiful, and powerful. His beauty, splendor, and power led to his downfall, because he did not receive these as a gift from God. Instead, he took pride in what he was given. Ambition grew in the soil of pride, and Satan was no longer content with what he had. He wanted more. He wanted that which rightly belonged to God. Because of this he was cast down, and his position was taken from him. So it would be for those kings who walked in his steps.34 They too began to develop a “god complex,” puffed up with pride and ambition because of the position and power given them.
Satan in the Old Testament
Satan is not a prominent person in the Old Testament. He is introduced early in the Scriptures and consistently represented as both the adversary of God and of men. We will consider the four Old Testament passages which depict Satan as the adversary.
Satan in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’” And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5).
Man was put in charge of the garden (Genesis 1:26-31). So far as we can tell, Satan had no authority, no part in the rule of God over the creation. The chain of command indicated in chapters 1-3 is Adam, Eve, and then Satan (as a creature). Satan, in true form, manages to turn this order of authority upside-down. He takes charge, gets to Adam through Eve, and brings about the fall. Satan’s arrogance and self-confidence ooze from the verses of our text.
The one who wanted to be “like God,” and who was cast down because of his pride and ambition (Isaiah 14:13-14; see Ezekiel 28:2, 9), now convinces Eve that disobedience to God’s command will make men “like God” (Genesis 3:5). Satan begins with a question, raising doubts about the goodness of God, and ending with a flat denial of God’s words which imply that God is a liar. He changes Eve’s perspective, so that the God who graciously forbade eating from the forbidden tree is viewed as a God who withholds what is good from man for His own selfish reasons. In the final analysis, Satan seems to achieve a total success by bringing about in men the same rebellion for which he was condemned. Satan approaches Eve as an ally, but in the end he is exposed as her adversary. The fall of man, and its resulting curses, are a direct result of Satan’s deception.
Satan as the Adversary of Job (Job 1 and 2)
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord (Job 1:6-12).
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth, and walking around on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to ruin him without cause.” And Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse Thee to Thy face.” So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life” (Job 2:1-6).
These texts contain important truths concerning God, Satan, and man which we will summarize:
(1) The Book of Job introduces Satan as an adversary, in the context of suffering, early in the history of mankind. While Job is not among the very first books of the Bible, many scholars believe Job lived during the patriarchal times, before Moses. While Satan may not be prominent in the Old Testament as a whole, he is clearly introduced early on as God’s enemy and man’s adversary.
(2) Satan is counted among the “sons of God” and is thus still included among the angels.
(3) Satan has freedom to go about the earth and even has access to heaven and the throne of God.
(4) Satan acknowledges God’s authority, but he does not respect it or fully submit to it. Satan knows he cannot afflict Job without God’s permission. He acknowledges that for him to afflict Job is ultimately for God to afflict him (Job 1:11; 2:5).
(5) Satan is arrogant toward God. Satan’s retort, “Skin for skin,” in verse 4 of chapter 2 may not be fully understood, but the attitude behind it is obvious. Satan shows no respect for God.
(6) Satan assumes that men are like him--that they strive for success and shun suffering. Satan’s words reveal his belief that men only serve God when it serves their own fleshly interests, and that they will turn from God when suffering comes into their lives. Satan cannot imagine anyone worshipping God for who He is, rather than for what He gives. He thinks men must be bribed to worship and to serve God. His view is: “Take away the success, replace it with suffering, and saints will turn from God.”
(7) Satan never learns. Satan is not teachable. Nothing changes his mind. While God acts in a way that could instruct Satan, he neither learns nor changes.
(8) Unwittingly, Satan serves God’s purpose. Satan’s efforts produced the opposite of what he hoped to achieve by inflicting Job with adversity and suffering. While Satan is rebellious toward God and an adversary of Job, the suffering God imposed ultimately resulted in a deepening of Job’s faith and brought greater blessings to Job.
Satan’s role in the Book of Job is a kind of microcosm, illustrating the place Satan plays in the overall plan of God. The role Satan plays in Job’s life illustrates the role Satan plays in the overall plan of God for creation. Satan is the enemy of God. He is neither humble nor submissive to God. He challenges God, thinking that afflicting Job will result in Job’s desertion from the ranks of those who worship God. But God is sovereign in Job’s sufferings. Satan can only afflict Job with God’s permission--and only within the limits God Himself has established. Job’s sufferings, while inflicted by Satan, are ultimately from the hand of God. Job may be asking the wrong questions, but he is asking the right person. After two chapters, Satan passes off the scene. When the story ends, Job’s faith has been deepened, and he is worshipping God. Job’s final condition is far better than his first. In spite of and because of Satan’s opposition, Job has been blessed, and Satan’s purpose has been frustrated. In the end, Satan learns nothing and gains nothing. God gained a more intimate relationship with Job, an opportunity to instruct the angels, and an occasion to teach us about Satan, the spiritual war, and the gracious role of suffering in the life of the saint.
As described in the Book of Job, what happened through Satan’s opposition to God and Job is exactly what always happens in the plan of God. Satan is allowed to manifest his rebellion and bring about that which he supposes will hinder God’s people and His plan. Satan is allowed to do only that which God has planned for His glory and our good. He does nothing apart from divine permission. He does nothing contrary to God’s plan. Through Satan’s opposition, God’s purposes are fulfilled, and Satan’s purposes are frustrated. In spite of his failures, Satan never learns. Instead, he hastens on in his rebellion.
Satan as the Adversary of Israel
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me word that I may know their number.” And Joab said, “May the Lord add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore, Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. And Joab gave the number of the census of all the people to David. And all Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword; and Judah was 470,000 men who drew the sword. But he did not number Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing, so He struck Israel. And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have done very foolishly” (1 Chronicles 21:1-8).
Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 24:1).
These two parallel passages tell of the same event from two very different perspectives. The account in 1 Chronicles informs us of Satan’s role in the numbering of Israel’s men. It also tells us Satan worked through David and that his purpose was to oppose Israel. The account of 2 Samuel takes us back a step further to the ultimate explanation. God was angry with Israel and allowed Satan to attack Israel through David.
This text tells us what we have already learned from the Book of Job: God uses Satan in His plan to achieve His sovereign purposes and to fulfill His plan. But it takes us one step further, teaching that God not only employs Satan to bring about the blessing of His saints, but that God also uses Satan to bring about divine discipline.
Satan as the Adversary of Joshua
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2).
While this account adds little to what we know about Satan, it underscores an important fact: Satan is the untiring, unceasing adversary of God and of His people.
A very clear and consistent portrait of Satan is painted in the Old Testament: he is the enemy of God and the adversary of man. He seeks power and recognition for himself, arrogantly resisting and rebelling against God. He is rebellious, evil, cunning, and unteachable. He persists with his devious work. In his ambition and efforts to further his own position, he willingly sacrifices mankind and indeed all creation. He may approach us as an ally, but sooner or later he is unmasked as our adversary, a deadly foe.
Satan in the New Testament
Satan’s character and conduct do not change in the New Testament; they only intensify. We now press on to the New Testament to see how God has permitted Satan to oppose Himself and men and to fulfill His eternal plan.
Satan’s purpose is always the same: he seeks to exalt himself above God by opposing God and men. While his goals are always the same, his methods differ greatly. We see this in the way Satan opposed our Lord at the time of His first coming.
(1) Satan directly opposed God through the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him (Matthew 4:1-11).
Satan himself was a “son of God” (see Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1) who rebelled against God and was cast down. In the wilderness, Satan opposed God through the Lord Jesus. The issue was clear: Jesus’ sonship. And thus the repeated challenge, “If you are the Son of God . . .” (see Matthew 4:3, 6).35 In the past, Satan was quite successful in tempting men on the basis of his own fallen perspective, ambitions, and values. Satan’s temptation of Jesus reveals much about himself, as well as something very important about our Lord. The temptations which found a responsive chord in the hearts of fallen men, had no appeal to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unlike Satan, Jesus was intent on doing the will of the Father and not acting independently. Jesus, unlike Satan, was willing to humble Himself, even to the point of death, to fulfill God’s purpose of providing the only means for man’s forgiveness and eternal life. Our Lord’s submission to the will of God was the basis for our Lord’s victory in the wilderness, as well as His victory at the cross over Satan, sin, and death.
(2) Satan also indirectly opposed the Lord Jesus Christ through his demonic helpers and through human instruments, including Israel’s spiritual leaders and two of our Lord’s disciples:
And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. And when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands upon her; and immediately she was made erect again, and began glorifying God. And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall, and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 11:13-16).
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him . . . and after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, “What you do, do quickly” (John 13:2, 27).
From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting you mind of God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:21-23).
(3) Satan opposes the Gospel by seeking to keep men from salvation in Jesus Christ.
“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11-12).
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
(4) Satan holds men and women captive to accomplish his will, often when they are not even aware of it.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).
And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
(5) Satan opposes Christ by attacking Christians, seeking their downfall and destruction.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you (1 Peter 5:8-10).
(6) Satan seeks to deceive and to distort the simple truths of the gospel.
But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
(7) Satan opposes Christians in disguise, often posing as a true believer and teacher of the truth.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).
(8) In opposing the gospel, Satan employs a full range of spiritual weapons and forces, many of which are unseen.
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Satan’s Opposition Furthers God’s Plan
The New Testament Scriptures, as well as the Old, reveal that while Satan opposes God and man in an attempt to frustrate God’s plan, his efforts are used by God to further His plan. The temptation of our Lord only demonstrated our Lord’s qualifications as the “Son of God.” Satanic opposition to our Lord was the occasion for our Lord to show His power over Satan and the demons. Our Lord’s death, which for a short time appeared to be a victory for Satan, proved to be the basis for Satan’s defeat (see John 16:11).
Satan’s opposition to the saints also may appear for a short time to be a victory for Satan. While Satan is used in the discipline of wayward saints, the goal is their spiritual deliverance from the bondage of sin:
I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5).
A messenger of Satan was permitted to afflict the apostle Paul. But far from hindering Paul’s spiritual growth or ministry, it produced humility and dependence on God:
And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Motivated by pride, Satan opposed Paul and the gospel. God sovereignly turned this around, producing in Paul humility and dependence on the Lord. Think of it! The harder Satan works to oppose the gospel, the more he promotes it. It is all part of God’s perfect plan!
God’s Plan for Satan’s Doom
To this point in time, God has purposed Satan’s existence and opposition to fulfill God’s plan. But for Satan the perfect plan of God includes a future day of doom. God’s perfect rule over creation requires the elimination and removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete. The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. The primary aspects of the plan, as God has revealed progressively through the Scriptures, is summarized here:
Satan’s doom is repeatedly and emphatically foretold in Scripture. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, Satan’s doom is implied in the taunting of the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre. God spoke of Satan’s defeat in Genesis 3, under the foot of the seed of the woman:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel (Genesis 3:15).
The Old Testament prophets provide more details concerning the “bruising of the heel” of Satan’s destroyer. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 speak of the sacrificial death of Messiah which spells Satan’s doom.
Our Lord spoke of Satan’s defeat during His earthly ministry, especially as the time of His death drew near:
“Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
“And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:11).
The apostles likewise spoke of Satan’s doom, seeing it as accomplished through the death of Christ, but still to be fully carried out fully in the future:
And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you (Romans 16:20).
The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
Until Satan’s doomsday comes, men may still be delivered from Satan’s power and punishment; they need but trust in Jesus Christ, who died in their place to pay the penalty for their sin and to deliver them from bondage to Satan through sin and death:
“‘To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me’” (Acts 26:18).
And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
While Satan’s future doom is certain, there is a present defeat in progress. Every time Satan acts in a way which he purposes to oppose God, God uses it to further His plan. Even in the midst of his opposition, Satan is always serving God.
Doomsday is coming soon for Satan. He and his demonic helpers are aware that their days are numbered.
And behold, they [demons] cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).
Satan’s downfall is described in the Book of Revelation in three major stages. The first phase of his final destruction begins with the closing of his embassy in heaven. His access to heaven and the throne of God, which he has long enjoyed (see Job 1:6-7; 2:1), is suddenly terminated when he is barred from heaven and cast to the earth:
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death” (Revelation 12:7-11).
This “casting out” of Satan serves only to increase his anger and rebellion toward God which he now takes out on those who dwell on the earth. The period of great tribulation is set in motion. God’s wrath on sinful men is achieved through this angry outburst of Satan, and the world is judged for its sin.
After the time of great tribulation, our Lord returns to the earth as its King to establish His rule over all the earth for a period of 1,000 years. During this time, Satan is bound so that he can no longer oppose God or men:
And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).
At the end of the 1,000 year reign, Satan is released for a time. He finds on the earth a large number of people who prefer Satan’s reign to that of our Lord, and so a great and final battle is waged against Satan and those who have chosen to follow him. When Satan and his forces are defeated, he and all of his followers are judged and cast into the lake of fire, forever:
And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-15).
We began with a consideration of Satan’s origin and his fall. The Bible ends with an account of Satan’s final doom. From beginning to end, Satan’s existence, His fall, and His opposition to God are all a part of God’s eternal plan for His creation.
The inclusion of Satan in God’s plan raises a problem which must be considered. Simply stated: How is it that a holy God would purpose the existence of Satan, and therefore of sin?
Or, “If Satan is in the plan of God, then surely sin must be in the plan as well. How can a holy God include sin in His plan?
This question can only be answered in relation to the purpose for which the plan was designed. The answer is given early in the Bible in the Book of Exodus. The text which answers the question follows immediately after Israel’s “fall” in the wilderness, while Moses was on the mountain with God. The Israelites persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf which they worshipped with much immorality. God sent Moses down to the people and threatened to destroy them. When Moses appealed to God, He withheld complete destruction and promised that Israel would possess the land of Canaan as He had promised. But God refused to go up with His people.
Moses made a very unusual request recorded in Exodus 33 and 34:
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight, and I have known you by name.” Then Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” Now the Lord said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. And no man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain.” So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. And he said, “If now I have found favor in Thy sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate; and do Thou pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Thine own possession” (Exodus 33:17-34:9).
Moses appealed to God to see His glory. God consented to at least a partial display of His glory. The important thing to note is what is identified as God’s glory. The radiance and splendor is but a reflection of that glory--not the glory itself. The glory is what God is--His attributes:
“I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exodus 33:19).
God told Moses that His glory was to be seen, in part, in His grace and compassion, sovereignly bestowed on men.
When God’s glory was revealed to Moses, it is identified by this divine declaration:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:6-7).
The glory of God is declared here in two aspects of God’s dealings with men: (1) His mercy toward some, necessitated and occasioned by their sin, and (2) His wrath toward others, due to their sin. Few would challenge that God’s grace is glorious. But many would question the wrath of God as a manifestation of His glory. Our text indicates these two aspects of His glory cannot be separated.36 How then do we explain that God is glorified by condemning men to an eternity in hell?
The explanation is not that difficult. Is a police officer praised for letting a murderer free? Police are expected to deal kindly with law-keepers and severely with law-breakers--unless we are the law-breakers. Since all men are law-breakers, we would all rather be let free by God. But this would not be right. A righteous God cannot overlook sin. He must deal severely with sinners. We expect it of Him. For this very reason we often find men protesting when the wicked seem to be prospering (see, for example, Psalm 73).
God’s wrath is justified when men break His laws. Even more, God’s wrath is justified when He provides for man’s forgiveness and men reject it. God is not severe just in His dealings with sinners; He is also gracious, compassionate, and long-suffering with sinners. Graciously, God sent His own Son to the cross of Calvary. There, Jesus bore the wrath of God. He was punished, not for His sins, but for the sins of the world. The gospel is the good news that anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation will be saved from God’s wrath, forgiven their sins, and assured of eternal life. Those whom God condemns to an eternal hell are those for whom Christ died, those who rejected His offer of salvation. God is truly glorified by His punishment of sinners and His grace to all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
Look once again at the Exodus 34 passage. Immediately after God spoke of His glory, both in punishing sinners and in saving sinners, Moses appealed to God:
And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. And he said, “If now I have found favor in Thy sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate; and do Thou pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Thine own possession” (Exodus 34:8-9).
Moses first bowed in worship, and then he made a request based upon the glory of God which had just been revealed to him. Since God had revealed Himself as gracious and compassionate, then let God glorify Himself by showing Himself gracious to this sinful people. The grace of God, which is a part of the glory of God, is the basis of Moses’ appeal for this sinful nation. God granted Moses’ request. God granted it for His own glory--and for Israel’s good.
When men protest God’s punishment of sinners, and at the same time reject His grace, they show themselves worthy of His wrath. When rebels who behave like their father, the Devil, are condemned, God acts in a way that displays His glory.
Every man is faced with this choice: will you receive God’s grace by repenting of your sin and trusting in God’s provision for you as a sinner, or will you reject God’s grace and endure God’s wrath? Each man must choose his master. There are only two: the Savior, Jesus Christ, and Satan. By birth, we enter life under the domain and control of Satan. By new birth, faith in Christ, we submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as Master and Savior and become citizens of His kingdom.
A lesson in contrast emerges from our study of Satan. What Satan is, Jesus Christ is not. What Jesus is, Satan is not. Consider these contrasts:37
The sinner’s Advocate
Exalted himself, resulting in man’s ruin
Humbled Himself, resulting in redemption
Accuses us before God
Intercedes for us with God
Followers share in his ruin
Followers share in His reign
Men become like him
Men become like Christ
A liar and deceiver
He is the truth
Promises freedom, but makes men slaves
Takes slaves and gives them freedom
Turns men from the Father
He is the only way to the Father
Delivers from death
Resists the will of God
Submits Himself to the will of God
Cruel and sadistic
Gracious and compassionate
My friend, whom will you choose? If you do not choose Christ, you are already Satan’s slave, doomed to share in his eternal torment. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.
Beyond this destiny-determining decision, there are other implications of our study mentioned in conclusion for your consideration.
(1) Satan deserves our respect; he should not be underestimated. Satan does not have a proper respect for God’s authority. False teachers also fail to respect heavenly powers:
Yet in the same manner these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 8 and 9).
The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord (2 Peter 2:9-11).
It is not all that surprising that Satan’s followers manifest the same disrespect for authority as their father. Indeed, it is troubling to hear Christians speak flippantly of Satan. Nowhere in Scripture is Satan a joking matter. Nowhere is he to be taken lightly. Nowhere in Scripture do we find men or women of God taking Satan on as though he were an easy match. I hear a great deal about “binding Satan” and other such actions, but I do not find these practices in the Bible. Let us remember that he is an angelic being with great power. Though an enemy, let us respect him as a deadly foe.
(2) Satan should not be overestimated. Just as some do not take Satan seriously enough, others give him too much credit, often crediting Satan for every irritation or problem of life. Satan does not often bother with such matters, at least so far as Scripture speaks of him and his activities.
Satan also has very significant limitations. For example, he is limited to those activities consistent with God’s plan. Satan is not allowed to act in a way that actually alters God’s plan. Further, he is neither all-knowing nor all-wise. Satan does have a vast demonic network and is therefore supplied with much information. But he is still not omniscient (knowing everything). We have no evidence, for example, that he can read our minds, though he surely can hear our spoken words and prayers.
Although he was created with great wisdom (see Ezekiel 28:12), Satan is most certainly not wise. The Scriptures reveal that his perspective is now very warped. Certainly the Scriptures instruct us that Satan has not learned lessons from history or from God’s dealings, such as in the Book of Job. He persists at pressing on with his rebellion.
The Book of Proverbs often reminds us that wisdom is proportionate with humility. Likewise, arrogance is proportionate with folly (see Proverbs 1:20-33; 3:5-7). Wisdom is also a result of the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10; 15:33). Wisdom comes from God; thus, those who reject and resist Him cannot be wise (see Proverbs 21:30). Satan is intelligent. He is incredibly cunning; but he is not wise. Everything he thinks and does is from a mind and heart warped by pride and arrogance. Let us not credit Satan with wisdom or objectivity, for these are strangers to one so dominated by pride and self-interest.
(3) Nothing can frustrate or hinder the plan of God. The combined opposition of Satan and his host of fallen angels cannot frustrate the will of God but can only fulfill it. We can be assured nothing else will either. Not even your sin or mine will change God’s plan. The only thing the Christian’s sin can do is hinder our fellowship and joy. But it will not frustrate God’s plan. How futile and foolish then is our sin and our rebellion, for it produces nothing of value.
(4) God has provided for the Christian “ways of escape” for the sins of pride and rebellion. Our study of Satan shows us how incredibly deadly are pride, arrogance, and disobedience. We can be sure that Satan will tempt us in these very areas. In His grace, God has provided “a way of escape” (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). Pride is continually condemned in the Scriptures as sin. The Bible constantly emphasizes God’s grace and reminds us that nothing worth boasting about finds its source in us; instead it is a gift from God.38
Worship is not only the privilege of every believer, it is a preventative for every believer. Satan would not worship God; instead, he sought worship for himself (see Matthew 4:9). Worship is a preventative to pride and rebellion (see Psalm 95). When we worship God, we see things in their right perspective (see Psalm 73:17f.). Worship acknowledges the worth and supremacy of our God. It should result in the “service of worship” (Romans 12:2), that service which does not seek to earn God’s favor but rather is inspired by humility and gratitude for God’s grace.
(5) God’s instructions to the church have good reasons. Our study of Satan in the plan of God suggests very good reasons for practices many Christians reject as senseless and irrelevant. Paul deals with the submission of women, and the perplexing matter of head-coverings, in the context of headship, or supremacy. Headship was Satan’s problem; he would not submit to the Headship of God. Headship, as submitted to by the women of the church, serves as a lesson to the angels. Apparently the angels need such instruction because of the on-going rebellion toward God involving not only Satan but a large number of other angelic beings. Does Paul’s teaching on the submission of the woman not make sense to us? Submission did not make sense to Satan or to Eve either. They did not need to understand why; they needed but to obey.
God’s order for the church bears directly on the structure and function of the church. Women, due to the teaching on submission, must not take leadership positions over men (see 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Timothy 3 [only men are spoken of as elders or deacons]; 1 Corinthians 14:34-36). Neither is any one man to usurp authority over the church. The New Testament speaks of the church as governed by a plurality of elders, not by a single individual. Absolute power corrupts, as we see with Satan and many kings of old--and even with some religious leaders (Matthew 23:8-12).
Not only must the gender and number of leaders in the church comply with the Biblical teaching on authority and submission, but the maturity of those chosen for the office of elder must also comply:
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?); and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil (1 Timothy 3:2-6).
Paul writes that Satan’s fall should be instructive and applicable to Christians. Just as Satan became swollen with pride, so church leaders must not allow immaturity to tempt them to a similar frame of mind, with its resulting condemnation.
The Bible has been written to increase our depth perception--our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see God, the ultimate source. The kings of Babylon and Tyre were those who opposed God and His people. Behind these men was Satan, the opposer. But behind Satan is a holy, righteous, and compassionate God, who is causing all things to work together for His glory and the good of His children.
I sometimes hear Christians referring to adversity or difficulty, assuming that it has come from Satan. Perhaps it has. Perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.
Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. But behind him is the God of the universe who is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with the God who uses him to achieve His plan.
Let us turn our hearts and minds in concluding this study to the words our Lord Himself taught us to pray:
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil [the evil one, see marginal note]. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen’” (Matthew 6:9-13).
For Further Study and Meditation
(1) How much emphasis does the Scripture place on Satan?
The Scriptures contain all the revelation concerning Satan the Christian needs to be informed of His nature and character, as well as his opposition against God and men. The Bible does not give Satan the attention he would like, because he is not worthy of it. The Scriptures which teach us about Satan are meant to turn us from Satan and toward God.
(2) What do we know about Satan’s origin and Satan’s fall?
From Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we know that Satan was created by God as an angel (a cherub), and that in his original state he was very powerful, most beautiful, and wise. At some later point, sin was found in him, and he was judged by God. From that point on, Satan has been in rebellion against God. In His opposition to God, Satan has become the adversary of men as well. His opposition to men began in the garden of Eden and continues to the present.
(3) What is Satan’s nature (attributes, character)? What does the Bible say Satan is like?
Satan’s character is reflected by his names and descriptions as given in Scripture (see below).
(4) What names of Satan are used? What do they tell us?
Satan’s names and designations tell us about the nature, character, and attributes of Satan. Most of these may be summarized as follows:
Names of Satan
- Satan [adversary] (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:7, etc.)
- the Devil (Matthew 4;1; John 8:44, etc.)
- the Dragon (Revelation 20:2)
- the Serpent (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 20:2)
- the Evil One (Matthew 6:13; 13:19, 38; 2 Thessalonians 3:3)
- the “angel of the abyss” (Revelation 9:11)
- Abaddon or Apollyon (Revelation 9:11)
- “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10)
- “the adversary” (1 Peter 5:8)
- Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24)
- Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15)
- the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9)
- the great dragon (Revelation 12:9)
- the enemy (Matthew 13:28, 39)
- the evil one (Matthew 13:19, 38)
- the father of lies (John 8:44)
- the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2)
- the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)
- the ancient serpent (Revelation 12:9)
- the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)
- Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1)
Satan’s nature, character and attributes:
- an angel; a cherub (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:14)
- a “son of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1)
- a liar (John 8:44)
- a murderer (John 8:44)
- cunning, crafty (Genesis 3:1)
- a hinderer (1 Thessalonians 2:18)
- a deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3)
- one who takes advantage of others (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)
- a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5)
- evil (Matthew 13:19, 38)
- arrogant (Job 2:4; Luke 22:31)
- a schemer (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 6:11)
- a hypocrite (1 Timothy 4:2)
- cruel and lacking any compassion (see Luke 13:10-17)
(5) What is Satan’s goal? What is He trying to do?
Satan’s goal is to promote himself and his glory by opposing God. In reality, just the opposite is happening. In God’s plan, Satan is bringing glory to God by his opposition.
(6) To what degree is Satan free to do what He wants? How much power does He have?
Satan has considerable power, but he is not at all free. As we can see from Job 1 and 2, Satan can do nothing to Job apart from God’s permission. God permits Satan to do only that which is a part of His plan.
From all that we can discern from Scripture, Satan is intelligent but no longer wise. His perspective and thinking are warped by his own arrogance and ambition. He has a broad-based network of demons, which keep him up well informed. Satan is not God, nor does he possess the attributes of God. He is powerful, but not all-powerful; He knows much, but he does not know all.
(7) What are Satan’s weapons? What gives him the power to work as he does? What means does he employ?
Satan weapons are the flesh and the world. Most often, Satan works indirectly, through these means. In addition, Satan employs fallen demons, unbelievers, and even the failures of the saints (like Peter in Matthew 16:23). There are other beings, such as the two beasts of Revelation 13 and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).
Satan’s power comes from God’s divine providence which allows him to do what he does. In addition, Satan has the power and authority rendered to him by the fallen angels (demons) who have followed him in rebellion. Further, Satan has power to affect men. This comes through the internal “pull” of the flesh and through the external “push” of the world.
(8) What is Satan’s destiny?
Defeat and doom. His downfall was first pronounced in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. It was promised in Genesis 3:15. Jesus spoke of his defeat in John 16:11. He is defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ, specifically through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. He is overcome at the cross, but his full and final defeat is future (see Romans 16:20). Through the preaching of the gospel and personal faith in Christ, men are being delivered from Satan’s grasp and granted eternal life (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:9). Sometime in the future Satan will be cast out of heaven, and his anger toward God and men will be intensified in its expression toward men in the limited time he has remaining (Revelation 12:1-12). Just before the 1000 year reign of our Lord, Satan will be bound, so that he cannot oppose men or God (Revelation 20:1-6). After 1000 years of living under God’s rule, Satan will be released for a time, and many will choose to follow him. This leads to a final battle between Satan and his followers and God and His saints (Revelation 20:7-9). Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire forever, along with all who have followed him (Revelation 20:10-15).
(9) Why does God allow Satan to exist and do what he does?
Satan’s creation, fall, and opposition was all included in God’s plan for creation. Satan’s fall and opposition to God is the instrument by which man fell (Genesis 3). Satan’s existence must be understood in the light of sin and also of God’s plan. God’s plan is to demonstrate His glory. Exodus 33:17--34:7 teaches that God’s glory is displayed in the way God deals with sin. For some, God deals graciously, forgiving them of their sins; for others, God punishes them for their sins. Apart from the existence of sin, the demonstration of God’s glory would not have been possible in its fullest form. Sin is the occasion for God’s glory, and thus He has included it in His plan, along with Satan, its promoter.
(10) What is the relationship between non-Christians and Satan? (See John 8:44; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 John 3:8,10)
Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. That kingdom includes every person who has not trusted in Christ. The “father” of the unbeliever is the Devil. His followers behave as he does (John 8:44). Whether men realize it or not, they are under his control, and they do his bidding. Often his control comes indirectly through the world or the flesh. Men may think they are free, but they are actually Satan’s slaves. Satan works hard to keep men from the truth--and from deliverance from him and his kingdom which comes through believing in Christ (Luke 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
(11) How does Satan seek to work in the life of a Christian?
Satan seeks to destroy the Christian (1 Peter 5:8). To do this, Satan seeks to distort the truth, to deceive the Christian, and ultimately to turn the Christian away from simple faith and obedience in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). Often, Satan will disguise himself or his teaching as coming from a true believer as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).
(12) Satan is a master of disguise, a creature with many faces. What are some of the forms which Satan takes, in his efforts to resist God and destroy men?
Satan has many “faces.” Some of these faces, with the ideas he promotes, are:
- Satan the invisible, non-existent one. The Devil is a myth.
- Satan under cover. Satan working invisibly, or through some intermediate agency (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1 and 2; John 8:40-41; 13:2, 27).
- Satan, our ally, who is here to help (see Genesis 3:1-5).
- Satan, the fierce, frightening one (see 1 Peter 5:8).
- Satan, the accuser (Zechariah 3:1-2; Revelation 12:10).
- Satan, the arrogant one (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28).
- Satan, the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).
- Satan, the religious “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
- Satan, the religious, legalistic, hypocrite (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
- Satan, the wonder-worker (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:11-15; 16:14).
A Biblical Summary and Overview
(1) Satan’s rebellion: Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28
(2) Satan’s opposition in the Old Testament
Genesis 3--the fall of man
Job 1 and 2--attack against Job
Chronicles 21:1--attack against Israel (see also 2 Samuel 24:1)
(3) Satan’s opposition in the New Testament
Matthew 4:1-11 --temptation of Christ
Matthew 16:23--employment of Peter (“Get behind Me, Satan”)
Luke 13:16 --employment of demons
John 8:44 --employment of the scribes and Pharisees
John 13:2, 27--employment of Judas
(4) Satan’s on-going opposition in the present age
Luke 8:12--opposes the gospel
Corinthians 4:4 --blinds men’s minds
Tim. 2:26; Ephesians 2:1-3--holds men captive in sin
Ephesians 6:10-18 --opposes Christians
He seeks to devour--1 Peter 5:8
He seeks to deceive--2 Corinthians 11:3
He seeks to distort the gospel--1 Timothy 4:1-5
He seeks to disguise himself & hinder the church--2 Corinthians 11:12-15
(5) Satan’s opposition furthers God’s purposes
(6) The Death of Christ: Man’s deliverance and Satan’s defeat
Timothy 2:24-26 --Deliverance from Satan’s dominion
Matthew 25:41 -- Satan’s Defeat
Romans 16:20 -- defeat is still future
Revelation 12-- Satan thrown down, Satan’s Doom
Revelation 20 -- chained 1000 years, thrown eternally into hell
Scripture Texts on Satan:
Isaiah 14:4-14 (especially verses 12-14)
1 Chronicles 21:1; (compare 2 Samuel 24:1)
Job (chapters 1 & 2); 38:4-7
Matthew 4:1-11; 16:23; 23:33; 25:41
Luke 4:1-12 (parallel to Matthew 4:1-11); 8:12; 10:18; 13:16; 22:31
John 6:70; 8:44; 13:2, 27; 16:11
Acts 5:3; 13:10; 26:18
1 Corinthians 5:5; 7:5
2 Corinthians 2:11; 4:4; 11:3, 12-15; 12:7
Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:27; 6:10-18
1 Thessalonians 2:18; 3:5
2 Thessalonians 3:3
1 Timothy 1:20; 3:6-7; 4:1-5; 5:15
2 Timothy 2:26
1 Peter 5:8
1 John 2:13-14; 3:8, 10; 5:19
Revelation 2:10; 9:11; 12:7-12; 20:1-15
33 The same blur or shift of emphasis is evident in Isaiah 40-55, where the “servant” of God is either Israel, Messiah, or Cyrus. Sometimes it is difficult to decide who is the servant. For this reason, an early version of the NASB supplied the words, “My people” in Isaiah 52:14, suggesting that the “servant” in verses 13 and 14 was Israel, not Messiah. What Israel failed to achieve as God’s servant, Messiah fulfilled. The one “servant” is thus replaced by the Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.
35 It is my understanding that the goal of God’s plan is the demonstration of His glory. Further, I believe the means is the establishment of God’s rule over the whole creation. The expression, “son of God” is a significant one in establishing God’s rule. Technically speaking, Jesus is not the only “son of God,” He is the Son of God who alone can establish the rule of God over creation. Satan was the first “son of God” who failed to rule as God’s prince. Adam too was a “son of God” (Luke 3:38), who was to rule for God (Genesis 1:26). Israel was next chosen as God’s “son” (Exodus 4:23; Hosea 11:1), followed by David and his dynasty (2 Samuel 7:12-16). All these sons failed to fulfill their calling as God’s “son.” The only solution was for the “son” to be a sinless man, the God-man, Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus came as the “son of God” to fulfill that calling (Psalm 2:4-9; Matthew 2:15; 16:16; 17:5; Luke 3:22ff.; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5). Jesus is the Son of God, who will establish God’s righteous rule over all creation. In this “sonship” every Christian will share, so that we will reign with Him (Romans 8:14-25).